Holloway speaks to smart growth, sustainable development

Here are Mayor A.J. Holloway’s prepared remarks to the ninth annual Coastal
Development Strategies Conference, known as the “Smart Growth Conference,” delivered May 5 at the Saenger Theater in Biloxi.

I want to welcome all of you back to Biloxi. We are glad to have this important gathering in our city again.

I’ll speak a little about what we have going on in Biloxi, but first let me say a few things.

Smart growth and sustainable development are important issues, particularly in a Coastal area, and even more so in Biloxi, since a good part of our city is on a peninsula.

We don’t have a lot of land, so we have to be good stewards of what we DO have.

I like to think that we’re doing some forward-thinking here in Biloxi and in the surrounding areas, but I know how important it is that we keep these ideas front and center.

I think it’s also important that we all remember what these terms mean.

As I see it, sustainable development means that, as we grow, we follow policies that preserve our natural resources for our current residents, and, more importantly, for future generations.

Sustainable development means that we do not allow anything that would diminish our quality of life, nor diminish the quality of life for future generations.

Smart growth, I believe, has three basic elements:

First, it discourages the conversion of rural land. That is, it discourages sprawl, or unplanned growth.

Second, smart growth encourages leaders to find a way to make infill development and restoration work in older areas of the city. We want to make these areas attractive to residents and investors alike.

And, finally, smart growth means that as community leaders we find a way to knit together our community in a way that our transportation system reduces the dependency on automobile trips.

Sustainable development and smart growth are more than concepts here in Biloxi and on the Gulf Coast.

We all know we have tremendous opportunities, and we’ll be successful if we keep these two concepts in mind as we go about rebuilding.

Now, having said all of that, let me give you an idea of what we have underway in Biloxi:

We’re working to use our past as our guide to rebuilding our city facilities. That is, we’re using the architectural charm and character of old Biloxi buildings in the design of new city facilities.

In fact, you’re here at a perfect time, when we are celebrating preservation and culture throughout the month. Each Thursday, we’re spotlighting a piece of our history.

Just last week, we unveiled the Grant-Bond House around the corner on Howard Avenue.

This week, we’ll be in the Biloxi City Cemetery, which was restored in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

We’ll have grave-side re-enactors in period costumes telling about the people buried in the cemetery, which dates back to the 1700s.

We’re also going to have a brown-bag lunch next week with a nationally known speaker, and we’ll wrap up the month with our preservation awards, where we’ll recognize individuals and businesses who are helping restore historic properties.

I think the centerpiece of our efforts in Biloxi will be the new Lighthouse Park and Visitors Center that will be on property just north of the Biloxi Lighthouse. We’re also going to restore the Old Brick House, one of the oldest structures in the city.

We’re working to educate our residents and visitors about what we have to offer.

With funding assistance provided through the Preserve America Grant Program, we are revamping our heritage tourism marketing program.

The primary objective of this project is to educate residents of and visitors to Biloxi about the historic buildings that remain.

We want to promote the preservation of these resources, and to commemorate the significant historic buildings destroyed by Katrina.

Among the city-owned historic properties that were lost were Tullis Manor and the Crawford House, the Dantzler House, the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, the Brielmaier and Foretich houses on Town Green, and the list goes on and on.

We were fortunate, however, that we didn’t lose all of our inventory of historic buildings. This theater is a perfect example of the work we were doing before the storm.

The Preserve America grant will involve revising the city’s historic walking and driving tours, and related brochures.

We’re going to identify existing historic buildings and their current uses as well as to mark the sites of significant historic buildings that existed just prior to Hurricane Katrina.

All-weather markers and signage also will be designed and installed to coordinate with the tour brochures, and to provide supplemental information about the history of destroyed buildings.

Educational kiosks that will include aerial photographs of pre- and post-Katrina Biloxi will be located at the beginning point of the walking tour, at the City’s new visitors’ center and at other locations.

We will interpret the architectural history of the City and its development, and celebrate the redevelopment of Biloxi.

These kiosks not only will help guide tours through the City, but will help promote local special events, exhibits, performances and other cultural resources.

The whole purpose of this work is that it’s not a matter of just being a historic city, you have to tell people about it.

You have to promote it. It’s your sense of place and it’s what makes you different from any other city in the world.

It reminds your residents why they choose to live and work here, and, as mayor, it’s very important for me to remind people just how great our city was and is, and how much greater we’re going to be.

With that, I’ll wrap up my comments, and say thank you again for being here.